Arrogance. Not a lovable quality in many occupations, but essential if you truly wish to get anywhere in the highly competitive world of rock music. For sure humility (or perceived humility) will win you friends, but the reality is that arrogance is the essential quality because without it no artist would ever place their music in the public domain to be ridiculed and revered, adored and argued over, criticised and copied. Some artists hide their narcissistic tendencies better than others, other artists embrace that quality and some even let it define them, but it is a trait that all artists share.
Sadly, somewhere around the turn of the century, narcissism fell from favour and rock stars got it into their heads that the only way to court public favour was to reduce themselves to saying only what people wanted to hear. Lars Ulrich became apologetic instead of bombastic, Dave Mustaine reigned in his fiery temper and barbed tongue and Axl Rose became rock’s most hated superstar for being the only one to resolutely fail to apologise for being himself. The media love it because with only a few notable exceptions they now have free reign to criticise and castigate without fear of being asked into the proverbial ring. Rock stars have lost their fire.
Quite how long this sorry state of affairs will last is anyone’s guess, but the truth is that without their arrogance rock stars have become somewhat dull. Courtney Love, Axl Rose, Ace Frehley et al. they may have been rude, arrogant and unpleasant, but they were also fun and they kept the media guessing. Now it seems only Gene Simmons and Axl have the balls to be honest about who they are and whilst you may not like them you have to respect their integrity.
What started this chain of thought was a recent interview with none other than Norselaw. An independent artists, Norselaw has released three metal albums, one good, one excellent and one, the most recent, exceptional. Norselaw, by dint of being a musician rooted in the extreme will never, it seems, be a superstar but he does evoke those long lost paragons of rock because he is a hell of a lot of fun. He says what he thinks and he means what he says, even if he only means it for as long as the interview lasts. He is unpredictable, as is his music; he is outspoken, as you would hope and he keeps his tongue firmly lodged in his cheek. Most importantly, however, he comports himself like a rock star and expects nothing less than the record buying public to seek him out. The fact that his records deserve attention is neither here nor there, his self-belief draws you in even before you’ve heard a note.
It should be no surprise that we at SonicAbuse love Norselaw. His latest album, ‘Kingslayer’ (reviewed here) is an awesome blast that you need to hear if you love extreme music, and we are more than pleased to present this interview to you should you need any further introduction into the mind-set of the one and only Norselaw.
Sir I challenge you to define yourself: friend or foe?
Definitely friend. I like to think of myself as a modern day Bono from U2 in his prime. Back when Bono was considered “cool”. I’m always trying to better the planet and use my fame for the common good. You people want me to be a God but I don’t even know what a God is, but if someone wants to pay me a million bucks to see me take a piss I’ll pull it out.
The back cover artwork – awesome! From whence does it come?
The female fans wanted a portrait of my backside, but i didn’t want to disappoint my male fans so said to the artist, “you can focus on my butt, but have me fighting something gnarly.”
The metal scene has become somewhat staid of late. Discuss.
Yeah, it totally blows. Everyone is trying to pretend they’re vikings. Fuck the vikings bro. If they’re so awesome then why are they all dead? Oh you’re from Norway or somewhere big fucking deal! It’s as compelling as me pretending I’m an American Indian because I’m from the USA. You’re not a viking you’re just some jerk trying to get a break in SHOW BIZ. Why not get creative guys and jerk off to some other era in history? How about SLAVE METAL? You could do old negro slave spirituals or work songs set to heavy riffs? Change it up! The vikings were POSERS!!!!!!!
How long did it take to record the mighty ‘Kingslayer’?
When I compose I enter an altered state of reality so time becomes irrelevant.
Tell us a little about your recording setup.
Well a God never gives away his secrets to his children but I will say it involves amps, guitars, microphones, and drums.
Your music sounds like a rampaging Norseman slaying rampant wilder beast with his mighty weapon whilst fondling a wench and imbibing a pint of foaming brown ale. To what extent do you agree? What would be a better analogy? Can it still involve wilder beast?
I like such poetry, but something tells me I should reconsider such socially irresponsible imagery. In the words of the immortal Bono, “I am a friend to God, a sworn enemy of the saccharine and a believer in grace over karma”.
How long have you been playing guitar for and how long did you have to practice to unleash some manic mayhem on your fret board?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12. I used to practice all day and in school would just read guitar magazines and think about playing. Most kids these day are flat out POSERS. I see Youtube vids where they’ve gained some technical ability because their loser father has pushed guitar on them at age 3. However, there’s a certain “it” factor which I have and that the guitar Gods like Schenker and Rhoads had that these new guitarists don’t. When I play I sound like no one else and am in a class by myself. I AM GUITAR.
The new album seems to eschew genres, drawing together a wide range of styles to create something multi-layered albeit gathered together under the banner of metal – what are your chief influences?
It’s funny because the lawyer and I whom I contracted to sue fans who’ve downloaded songs illegally were discussing this very question over some expensive wine the other day. I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t really listen to any music but my own anymore. I’ll often pull up an old song I did and think “BRILLIANT!” Then I may elaborate on an idea I expressed on a prior album. I love that I’m at a point in my career where I influence myself!!
You are trapped on a desert Island with only a box of steak and a Vegetarian. Do you a) try to convert the vegetarian for their own good or b) eat the vegetarian so that the steak will last longer?
Oh God, haha, you’re going to get me in trouble aren’t you? I’d have to ask myself “what would Bono do?” Honestly, I’d go with “C” and probably praise the vegetarian for their enlightened treatment of our fellow creatures then talk reprisal against the corporate scum which banished us to this island because of the threat we posed in fermenting rebellion. I am the anti Ted Nugent.
What influences you lyrically and how do you develop your lyrics for the finished song?
Bono for sure, but I’d also say Jon Bon Jovi has had some great lyrics. A real gem is the “Young Guns 2” soundtrack. Check these lyrics out by Jon Bon Jovi who got a bad rap for being hair metal, “Hey Patty Garret that’s what I used to call you They tell me you want me but I hear they’ve got you They made you a lawman with a badge made of silver They paid you some money to sell them my blood
But you say this ain’t about me, this ain’t about you Or the good and the bad times we’ve all been through When the line’s between brothers and justice has changed You do what you’ve got to cause you can’t walk away
I wonder what would have happened If you were the killer And I was the hero Would things be the same Or would I have traded your life for my own life Would I have paid Your debts in your place
But this ain’t about me, this ain’t about you Or the good and the bad times we’ve all both through When the lines between brothers and justice has changed You do what you’ve got to cause you can’t walk away
Blood money That’s what I call it ‘Cause money for blood ain’t no fair exchange Blood money Bought and then sold you But your conscience is all you can take to your grave.”
Isn’t that beautiful? I think it’s truly underrated. Anyway, I try and think “do these lyrics move me? will they move the peasants to action? Or am I wasting my time as the public is too stupid to understand?”
It seems there are so many people vying for attention on the internet now, how difficult is it trying to create a buzz around your music?
It’s very difficult and if you look at the caliber of artistry I display in comparison to all these shit bands that rule the roost you begin to realize that despite the internet the music industry is the same corporate bullshit it always was and is all about who you know. When it comes to schmoozing the “suits” Norselaw knows no one.
Why should people listen to Norselaw?
Because maybe they’re tired of listening to shitty music and being a POSER?
What was the last great record you bought?
A few years ago I bought Michael Schenker’s “Assault Attack” with Graham Bonnett on vocals and It’s truly a masterpiece.
Physical or digital records? Why?
I still enjoy the physical cd and having the artwork which gives the sense of truly owning the album. I’m old school I guess.
Sum up ‘Kingslayer’ in no more than 18 words (or twenty monosyllables).
A clever existential romp with more passion and power than all the shitty metal you own put together!!
Where can people find out more about Norselaw?
Any plans for a live show or are you worried that the insane riffs will give you a hernia trying to recreate them in front of an audience.
Once the promotion gets moving I’d love to start playing out but there’s no real scene or people worth playing for where I’m at.
Any final words for your UK fans?
You’ve had some great bands with Sabbath, Maiden, and Priest but now is the time of NORSELAW!! BUY MY SHIT!!!!